Softball has taken some hits in the last few years, none bigger than being dropped from the Olympics. Because of that, many softball coaches and players find themselves having to promote their sport in a way that other athletes don't, according to Southmoore (Okla.) High School coach Jason Lingo.
“Our sport needs promoting for two reasons,” Lingo said. “One, we are not football. Two, we are a female sport. It’s a simple fact that female sports do not generate the excitement and passion across a broad base the way men’s sports do. And in my opinion, it will never be equal. But as for the sport of softball, we need to understand that fact, accept it, and move on to improving our brand worldwide.
“We can’t compete against football, but quite frankly, we don’t have to. We need to continue to expand our base of core fans and turn that into market shares in advertising.”
In order to expand the fan base, players have to be more than athletes, Lingo said. They have to be ambassadors.
“I think that players in all sports have a responsibility to promote and represent their sport in a first-class manner,”Lingo said. “It’s a proven marketing fact that attention is paid to a sport or a team when the general public is intrigued by the level of competition and excitement the game brings and the connection with the players. If we can’t represent our sport and show the public how exciting it is and have them feel proud to support us by our actions, then we have no shot at expanding coverage in the media.”
For Lingo, the best example he’s seen of players promoting softball comes every year during the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City. The competitors not only play multiple games a day, butthey’re alsoexpected to sign autographsand interminglewith fans, win or lose.
“I think the ASA and the NCAA do a fabulous job in promoting our sport at the collegiateand lower age levels,”Lingo said. “For the lastfouryears, the Women’s College World Serieshas overtaken the College World Seriesin Omaha in viewership on TV. That may not seem like it’s important to the casual fan, but it’s huge for the sport of softball. It proves that we can go toe-to-toe with our male sport equivalent at the collegiate level and garner more viewers.
“That means we are expanding viewership out of the core base of regional fans of the teams competing in the tournament, and building a national interest — regardless of who’s playing.”
Yet, Lingo said the best way players can promote softball is just how they present themselves in public. They are walking, talking advertisements for the sport.
“They need to worry about becoming better players and competing at a high level,”Lingo said. “When that happens over a broad range — the game will improve and the excitement and competitiveness will be enhanced, and the quality of the product will be improved.”
And a few simple things from players can go a long way in promoting the game, Lingo said.
“If a player wants to promote the game, they can start by improving their game as an individual — on and off of the field,” he said. “Learn how to speak publicly and give interviews. If you can’t carry on an intelligent conversation when talking about the sport you love, or the team you play for — then why would people be intrigued by you enough to take more interest?”